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New report finds Doctor Who regenerated Welsh creative industries

A new report published today (23 November) reveals that the hit series Doctor Who contributed approximately £134.6m in GVA to the Welsh economy between 2004 and 2021. Released to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the world’s longest running action adventure TV series, the report also shows that for every £1 of direct economic output (GVA) generated by the production of Doctor Who, a subsequent £0.96 of economic output was generated in Wales, making its total economic contribution £1.96.

The report – undertaken by economists in the BBC Public Policy team, incorporating primary research conducted by Media Cymru – outlines the -iconic action adventure series’ economic impact on Wales since 2004, when it  made Cardiff its home. The analysis considers the impact of Doctor Who from the start of production on Series 1 to the most recent series with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor (Series 13).   

Most significantly, the report finds that the regeneration of the show in Wales is widely acknowledged as the catalyst for investment in the South Wales creative cluster and its specialism in high-end television and drama production. Analysis by Cardiff University’s Centre for the Creative Economy for the report pinpoints Doctor Who as the moment the South Wales creative cluster shifted from strength to recognised excellence.    

The economic impact report also finds that Doctor Who’s return was a pivotal moment and became a catalyst for the immense growth of the Welsh creative industries over the last 15 to 20 years. The screen sector – comprising of production, post-production, digital and special effects for film and TV, and TV broadcasting – is now the largest of the five Creative Industry sub-sectors prioritised by the Welsh Government and accounted for more than £459m turnover in 2022.

The impact has not just been felt in Wales. Across the UK, Doctor Who production activities generated £256m since the show was relaunched and produced in Wales and 87% of the title’s economic output was generated in the UK creative industries.

First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said:  “It’s been really satisfying to see the success of Doctor Who since being produced in Wales and the strong association the iconic programme has with our nation. 

“The Doctor’s return has been a key driver in building the reputation of the Welsh screen industry and our highly skilled creative sector ensures Doctor Who continues to push the boundaries for sci-fi on TV.

“Penblwydd Hapus to The Doctor – here’s to many incarnations to come!”

Welcoming the report, the Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, said: “In 2004 we decided to reboot Doctor Who in Wales. That decision has a tremendous legacy we can be proud of.   It has delivered over £134 million to the Welsh economy – and over a quarter of a billion to the UK as whole. That is truly remarkable.

“But even this understates the transformative impact that Doctor Who has had on the creative economy – with a world class creative cluster now thriving in Wales today.

“Doctor Who’s lasting legacy in Wales is being replicated across the UK as more and more BBC programmes and services move their content outside of London and into the nations and regions. We’re harnessing the creative economy across the UK; something which is paying huge dividends – for communities and for audiences.”

Interviewed as part of the report, Russell T Davies, who was the Showrunner of Doctor Who for Series 1-4 and has returned as Showrunner. His first episodes broadcast this weekend; “That’s why I completely love this [approach to commissioning]. I love it. When people say, Oh, a television or television drama cost £2 million. But what that means is £2 million goes into Cardiff. £2 million to the drivers and the office staff and the hospitality, the hotels and then pubs and the bars, and then supermarkets. It’s £2 million ploughed into Cardiff.

“Work creates work, you know, and that has happened. The more crews get to work on stuff, more young people get trained in this stuff. So it’s more crucial for the future, and the more writers are pitching ideas. And you know, the whole thing comes over to attracting not only other international productions, [but] great regional shows as well.”

The report also estimates that each series of Doctor Who (Series 1 to 13) generated indirect and induced employment equivalent to 50.3 FTE jobs per series in Wales, and 94.5 FTE jobs within the UK overall. In Wales, this breaks down as each series typically creating 33.0 FTE roles within the supply chain (indirect employment) and 17.4 FTE roles within the wider Welsh economy (induced employment) for each series of filming.

The report highlights that BBC network production in Wales was relatively limited prior to 2004, but the success of Doctor Who this gave the industry confidence that Wales could deliver and kicked off a remarkable series of drama commissions. It paved the way for big BBC-commissioned shows from Torchwood to Merlin to Atlantis to Sherlock. This year sees no less than six new drama titles from Wales including Steeltown Murders, Wolf and Men Up. 

The move also underpinned the BBC’s decision to build Roath Lock studios – the first purpose-built drama studio in Wales – and to transfer long-running hospital drama series, Casualty from Bristol. In 2019 BBC Cymru Wales  opened  its broadcasting hub in Central Square, which is projected to make an contribution of over £1 billion to Cardiff’s economy by 2028, and create an extra 1,900 jobs.

The report features a case study from one of the many companies in the TV supply chain set up in Wales as a result of Doctor Who. Real SFX specialise in special effects and service the production companies with specialist skills set grown in Wales. Its founder Danny Hargreaves is quoted in the report: “Doctor Who gave me an opportunity to set up my own business, as I was working for another company before based in London, travelling every week. Imagine a 29 year old to set up a company and run one of the Nation’s biggest shows. It was such a great opportunity”

Company Director, Carmela Carrubba continues: “One of our very first apprentices is now running the floor on set. It is great to see them becoming technicians and supervisors growing with the company. Danny has always wanted to have a local, talented, trained crew. I think we’re now a 100% Welsh crew. All this began with the success of Doctor Who coming to Wales.”

The report does not include the 60th anniversary episodes or forthcoming season that have been produced by Bad Wolf with BBC Studios and Disney Branded Television, as the economic data beyond Series 13 is not yet complete nor available.